Here at Barlean’s we believe in providing only top quality seafood to our customers. All of our fish; salmon, halibut, smoked salmon, crab and spot prawns are processed in small quantities with intensive hand labor to ensure that the quality of the product meet our high standards. When processing, the whole Barlean’s crew is involved, including the owners. We feel that by being there, on the processing floor we are better able to be in touch with the quality of fish coming through the plant.
Most likely you have heard the saying “Garbage in equals garbage out.” At Barlean’s we believe this saying to be true. This is why we specifically buy fish at the beginning and peak of the runs for both our fresh frozen products and for the fish that are going to be smoked. The fish are brighter, the flesh color better, and the oil contents of the fish are higher. The higher the oil content, the higher the nutrients and the better the flavor.
The majority of our wild salmon we catch ourselves using Reef Net gear. Reef netting is a century old Native American way of harvesting salmon that has developed into the most unique and ecological method of harvesting wild salmon. This fishery utilizes scoop nets and live tanks for harvesting wild salmon. These live tanks enable targeted salmon species to relax and metabolize any lactic acid built up during the brief encounter with the net. The fish are allowed to remain alive until moments before processing, ensuring the highest quality available. In addition, the fishermen are also able to grade out and release untargeted salmon species and other marine life without harm.
Other local species which we are unable to harvest ourselves, we buy directly from a select number of local fishermen who also take great care and pride in producing high quality products.
In addition to processing our own products, we have spent years sourcing high quality natural seafood. Products such as: oysters, scallops, shrimp, lobster, and tuna to name a few.
Our fish are hand processed immediately after being caught, belly iced and held in insulated totes for retail sales or for further processing. All fish are held for less than three days before being hand filleted, portioned, vacuum packed and flash frozen. Once frozen the fish are stored in giant freezers at -22 degrees.
Vacuum packing seals the fish away from the air eliminating any dehydration of the product. The flash freezing is done to maintain the integrity of the texture of the product. If a product is frozen slowly the water held within the cells has time to expand, rupturing the cell walls. This rupturing causes the fish to be soft and often mushy when thawed out. When flash freezing the product is frozen so quickly that the water is unable break down the cell integrity resulting in an extremely firm product.
The storage of any cold water fish is also very important to the flavor and enjoyment of the fish. All cold water fish; salmon, halibut, cod, herring etc contain high amounts of the omega-3 oils and have harmless cold water bacteria that occur naturally in the fish. These oils and bacteria don’t freeze until about -7.5 degrees. Storage temperatures above this greatly reduce the shelf life of the seafood. Storage temperatures below this will allow for a longer storage period with greater flavor and quality. Here at Barleans we store our seafood at -22 degrees to ensure the best flavor and quality possible.
Have you ever taken a piece of fish out of the freezer that seems frozen, but when it is thawed and prepared it has an off taste, or a very strong fishy taste? Often people refer to this as being freezer burned. There is however a very good chance that the fish was never truly frozen at a molecular level. It may seem and feel like it is, but unfortunately it never was. What has occurred is the cold water bacteria has continued to multiply in the omega-3 oils and this is what you are actually tasting. It isn’t bad for you and won’t hurt you; it just doesn’t taste very good.
So if you can freeze products quickly, keep the air off the product, and keep the freezer temperature below -10 degrees you will be able to enjoy better quality seafood for a longer period.
Another concern for seafood storage is the self defrosting freezer. Self defrosting freezers are also very hard on food products. As the freezer is thawing and refreezing every day in order to keep the freezer free of any ice build up, the products in the freezer are also doing he same. The results are very similar to freezing slowly with the fish ending up being soft and possibly watery. Self defrosting freezers are great for short term storage, but you will defiantly start to notice a change in flavor and quality around the 4 month mark.
Things you can do to improve home storage to help eliminate this from occurring include; turning down your freezer as low as it can go, investing in a non self defrosting chest freezer. Often these will get down to -10 degree or so. If you are freezing your own fish, spread them out on a cookie sheet to get a quicker freeze. Also, try not to store seafood products for more than 3-4 months to avoid any “freezer burnt” taste, and finally, use any package with broken vacuum pack seals first in order to avoid any dehydration. These few simple steps will allow you to enjoy your seafood more fully.